Coronavirus: Expansion of BCEHS services announced to support rural and Indigenous communities

Coronavirus: Expansion of BCEHS services announced to support rural and Indigenous communities
Premier John Horgan addresses British Columbians on April 20, 2020.

The B.C. government has announced an expansion of BC Emergency Health Services for rural and Indigenous communities, including 55 more ground ambulances throughout the province.

According to the province, six of those new ground ambulances will go to the Northern Health region. There will also be a total of seven more fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters available for medical transportation.

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser announced the transportation as part of a new framework for health care in rural and Indigenous communities in the province on Monday.

The new framework also includes:

  • housing options for people looking to self isolate near their families while remaining in their home communities
  • new and faster COVID-19 testing technology. This includes GeneXpert test kits, which take less than 45 minutes to complete. Several GeneXpert instruments are already being used in the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, Interior Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health.
  • culturally safe contact tracing that respects privacy in small communities
  • access to Virtual Doctor of the Day, a program that connects First Nations members and their families in remote communities to a doctor or nurse practitioner using videoconferencing
  • options for accommodation near larger centres with more medical services
  • increased mental-health supports in communities

“This is all hands on deck,” Fraser said.

“It is about working together, government to government.”

Fraser says Indigenous communities have been hit hard in past pandemics and elders, in particular, as keepers of knowledge and language, must be protected. Indigenous people comprise approximately 270,000 people in B.C.

“Health must be responsive to those needs,” Fraser said.

The province said local leadership will determine how the new services operate in their communities.

The announcement was live-streamed on CHEK’s Facebook page and YouTube page.

Live at 12:45: Premier John Horgan; Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation; Dr. Danièle Behn…

Posted by CHEK News on Monday, April 20, 2020

Horgan and Fraser were joined by Dr. Danièle Behn Smith, deputy provincial health officer, Indigenous health; and Susan Wannamaker, executive vice-president, Clinical Service Delivery, Provincial Health Services Authority.

Earlier Monday, the village of Alert Bay, off of northern Vancouver Island, announced it had declared a local state of emergency and installed a curfew due to a possible outbreak of coronavirus.
Horgan last spoke to the province on April 15. He announced B.C. would be extending its state of emergency for another two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of emergency was first declared on March 18.

Provincial states of emergency allow the province to restrict travel, set prices on essential goods and other extraordinary powers.

During Monday’s press conference, Horgan also offered condolences to the victims of the Nova Scotia shooting. Horgan said the Nova Scotia flag will fly at the B.C. legislature and the Canadian flag will be at half staff in mourning.

“All British Columbians’ hearts are heaving with sadness,” Horgan said.

With files from The Canadian Press


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